crisis planning

Ten Things: Preparing for When “Bad Things” Happen

Unfortunately, the world we live in can go from good to shockingly awful in a matters of hours.  There is no starker reminder of this than the horrific events in Paris on November 13, followed by the terrorist assault on a hotel in Mali just days later.  Besides terrorism, disasters arising from natural events (hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, tsunami) and man-made events (plane crash, fire, cyber-attack, workplace violence) lurk in the shadows as well.  This is true for both individuals and businesses: tragedy does not discriminate.

One of the most important tasks you have as in-house counsel is to help ensure that your company is prepared for when disaster — man-made or natural — strikes.  Protection of your fellow employees and corporate assets/shareholder value should always be top of mind.  In some companies, planning for disaster falls within the Risk Management Department, in others it’s a mixture of different departments, including the Legal Department. Some companies simply have not gotten around to planning for disaster. Regardless of where your company sits on this continuum, Legal has a role to play in assisting the company plan for dealing with a crisis.  If not already the case, you should ensure Legal has a seat at the table for such planning. This edition of Ten Things discusses things you can do as in-house counsel to help the business plan for when bad things happen:

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Ten Things: Crisis Preparation 101

As in-house counsel you can sum up your priorities in two categories: “Maximize Value Creation” (e.g., M&A) and “Minimize Value Destruction” (e.g., defending “bet the company” litigation).  Pretty much all legal work you or the department do will fall under the above.  A “crisis” situation falls under potential value destruction and can come in many forms, including major litigation, data breach, government investigation or criminal indictment, environmental catastrophe, social media “meltdown”, product recalls, death of the CEO, campus intrusion, FCPA claims, just to name a few.  How you and the company respond to a crisis will go a long way to preventing or limiting damage to the company, including its reputation and brand.  In-house counsel should play a key role in the strategy and plans to manage these risks should they arise.  Ask yourself this question:  “If [pick a crisis] happened today, do I know the exact steps the company and I would take in the next 24 hours?”  If the answer is “no”, then it’s time to get cracking.

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